Football: In the grip of yellow fever: Norman Fox urges caution when Arsenal continue their European bid this week

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The Independent Online
ARTUR JORGE, Paris St-Germain's Portuguese coach, is confident. Confident that on Tuesday night, in the semi-final second leg of the European Cup Winners' Cup at Highbury, Arsenal will 'give us our hardest match this season, much more difficult than Real Madrid in the quarter-finals or any of the teams we play in France'. George Graham says he, too, is confident. Confident that PSG can 'play a lot better than they did in Paris'. Jorge and George, praising each other in the way that managers do when they are not too sure of themselves. Who should we believe?

Perhaps after the 1-1 draw in France which put PSG under all the pressure to win at Highbury we should hope both managers are right and anticipate one hell of a second leg to follow one outstanding first. But there is more involved than a simple matter of whether both sides can play even better than they did in Paris.

Because he had fallen out with the French press over their suggestion that he had been considering an offer to coach Real Madrid, Jorge got his deputy, Denis Troche, to tell them that in London, PSG would make sure that superior technique and improved pace would get them through. But what Jorge now thinks he has over Graham has nothing to do with technique.

He believes that England's last survivors in Europe this season will be affected by the possible consequences of their own susceptibility to provocation and a lack of realisation that, in European competition, most referees apply the rules without regard for the give and take that is accepted in Britain.

Eight Arsenal players have received a yellow card in Europe this season. They know that another warning on Tuesday and, if Arsenal get through, they will miss next month's final against Benfica or Parma. Playing naturally, in Arsenal's case aggressively by Continental

standards, could invite trouble, and worse, it could suggest to PSG that some timely provocation could turn the tie. Jorge says Arsenal are too experienced to be provoked; so does Graham, but you would not put money on it.

Jorge was impressed by Arsenal in Paris. 'We thought we knew about them and about the strength of English football, but telling our players did not prepare them for the stamina they needed to stop Arsenal.'

After the game, Jorge admitted that dominating the

French league and having a comfortable win over Real Madrid had probably made some of his team complacent. 'Against Arsenal, some did not play up to their ability.' But later he was much less pessimistic, especially when told about the Arsenal players with yellow cards. 'I think that may mean they cannot play so strongly as they usually do at home.' In normal circumstances, it would not be beyond Arsenal's powers to hold the tie at 1-1 and win by virtue of the away goal. As it is, they may take the risk of immediately wanting to extend their lead and ensure that the potential tie-winner, Ian Wright, is well provided.

Wright was sensational and stupid in Paris. His speed deflated the French midfield, but if he fired himself up, he also allowed himself to indulge in crude taunting of the crowd.

It has to be kept in mind that, in the first leg, PSG had to rearrange their team because

they were without their influential defender Alain Roche and that several of the Arsenal players probably had their best

games of the season. When Lee Dixon had problems with David Ginola, the back-up from John Jensen, Steve Bould and Tony Adams was formidable. Ginola, who also has to watch his step at Highbury because he has had one yellow card, says PSG play better away from home but that Arsenal's resilience is such that the return leg is likely to be won by one or two moments of exceptional skill or foolishness. Graham's job is to ensure it is not Ginola's skill or Wright's indiscretions that decide.

(Photograph omitted)

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